SURREY — About a dozen tents crowded the plaza outside North Surrey rec centre last Wednesday (June 7) as the season’s first Surrey Urban Farmers Market sprang to life.
On a slightly cloudy, seriously muggy afternoon, people strolled through a corridor of vendors who peddled fruit, veggies, jewelry, bread, plants, soaps, liquor and other goods as Barry Wilson sang and strummed Eagles classics near the SkyTrain station.
Roxci Bevis, who manages the market, busily dealt with the concerns and questions of customers of a market that has been in operation for nearly a decade.
This is another rebuilding year for the weekly event, she said.
“We’ve talked to people in the community and some of them don’t even know this is here every Wednesday, and it’s been here for nine years,” she exclaimed.
Last summer, the market returned to the rec centre area following a nearly disastrous move to the plaza outside city hall, to the north.
“The other location, we lost a lot of vendors after we moved there, and some said they won’t come back,” Bevis explained. “It just seemed like a perfect location next to city hall, but it’s really not — you can’t see it from anywhere,” she added. “It had so much potential but didn’t end up being very good for the market. So this year and last year are rebuilding years, trying to get vendors back and customers back.”
At Kiran Virk’s stand, Surrey Councillor Mike Starchuk packed a container of strawberries into a bag already brimming with buns, herbs and eggs.
“I’m actually doing a cooking thing with a youth group in Clayton tomorrow,” he reported. “We’re going to cook a fresh pasta with an alfredo sauce and a pesto with fresh basil. I’m buying as much locally grown produce as I can, and we’ll get cooking.”
Starchuk said he can’t understand why the market isn’t filled with more buyers.
“I’m a competitive person, and it drives me bonkers that we don’t have a more popular, more supported public market like this,” he said. “I’m all about local and sustainable. When someone comes here to taste how fresh this food is, all of it, and they know they’re supporting local growers, local vendors, it just makes sense to me to support that. This is where you’ll find me on Wednesdays this summer.”
At another stand, fellow customer Dawn Climie paid $10 for a membership with the market association.
“I try to get here every Wednesday,” noted Climie, who lives on 104th Avenue. “For me, it’s a walk, too, so it’s a way to get some exercise, see some people and get to know the vendors, which is important to me – one of the reasons I like to support the market. I know the person who grows the vegetables here, rather than going to the store and just buying any carrot. This way, I know where my food is coming from, who’s growing it, and where. I learn what kind of chemicals they use or don’t use.”
Climie’s reusable bag was filled with eggs, radish, a danish and some strawberries.
“I also like the economy of the market,” she added later. “I really like the idea of when I give a farmer five dollars, they get five dollars, as opposed to a grocery store where if I pay five dollars, the farmer maybe gets half of that.”
The market just didn’t work when it was held on the plaza outside city hall, Climie said.
“Parking is one disadvantage of the market in this location,” she said, “but being right on the bus loop like this, that’s going to be your best customers, along with the people who live in the towers around here.”
Andreas Miller, who drives the yellow Gesundheit Bakery bus from Abbotsford to North Surrey every Wednesday, likes the current market location.
“We actually almost stopped coming here, then they moved it back over here, and I have a feeling it will do well this year,” Miller said. “Last year it did OK, and hopefully it gets back to its former glory. That usually takes a couple of years.”
Nearby, Gary Gratrix sold and offered samples of liquids made by South Surrey-based Dragon Mist Distillery.
“This market, it’s good, and it gets busy sometimes and is quiet at other times,” he reported. “Weather dictates a lot of that, and today is a great day. This is a small market, probably one of the smallest ones we do, but we’re a Surrey company so we’re here at the Surrey market. We see a real variety of people. It’s Surrey, right.”
For Bevis, one of the most important jobs right now is letting people know that the market is alive and well, and has returned to its original home at the rec centre plaza.
A “funding crisis” makes the job of marketing more than a challenge, she lamented.
“We use Facebook and Instagram to spread the word, and that’s it,” Bevis explained. “We’re a non-profit market that has zero dollars in the bank. We’re waiting to here back from the city for a grant, and also from Vancity. Sometimes we do flyers, and in July we have some students helping out from a youth program here in Surrey, and they’re going to walk up and down King George with signs, waving them around, like the Little Caesars people.”
It’s all a bit of struggle, Bevis admitted.
“We’re one of the only SkyTrain-accessible farmers’ markets, so we have to get the word out about that,” she related. “We’re still trying to recruit some vendors for August and later (in the season), and we can have a max of 20 here,” Bevis added. “That would be great. Next week we’ll have a food truck from NightShift Street Ministries, a food truck that raises money for a good cause. They’ll be here every second week. And also a potato-tornado truck is coming next week, so we’ll have more ready-made food for people to eat and buy. Those are good things.”
Surrey Urban Farmers Market happens every Wednesday from 2 to 6 p.m., from June 7 until Oct. 4, outside North Surrey rec centre, 10275 City Parkway. On the web, visit surreymarket.org, or call 778-228-3276 for details. Bevis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.